East Sussex ‘won’t put up with Brighton outsourcing people to die’ in emergency accommodation

Legal representatives from Brighton and East Sussex are set to meet over a dispute around emergency homeless accommodation.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 9:38 am
Kendal Court, Newhaven

The dispute revolves around Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) placing its residents in East Sussex, particularly at Kendal Court in Newhaven, where eight residents died between 2016 and 2018.

From East Sussex County Council’s point of view, Kendal Court is not an appropriate place for people with complex needs. It argues this view is supported by coroner’s verdicts and an independent report commissioned after the deaths of residents.

The matter was discussed on Thursday (September 30) at a meeting of the East Sussex Health and Wellbeing Board — a group made up of councillors, senior officers and NHS leaders from across the county. 

The board had last considered the issue at a meeting in July, where its members resolved to raise concerns in writing.

During discussion East Sussex County Council’s (ESCC) chief executive Becky Shaw confirmed the board had now received a reply.

Ms Shaw said: “We have, in the last 48 hours, received a note, but as Mark [Stainton – director of adult social care] said, we do regret the slowness of the reply that this board has received to the letter that we wrote.

“They’ve confirmed that consistently over 200 people, which is nearly 30 per cent of the people that the city council are placing in emergency accommodation, were placed in Lewes and Eastbourne, including in Kendal Court.

“I think this really clearly suggests that the provision the city has got within its own boundaries is inadequate and requires significant and robust action to address. 

“We have, in their latest note, really welcomed their stated intention that they are going to take action and we have seen some reports going through their housing committee. We particularly welcome a new intention to prioritise the move back into the city area for any client who exhibits vulnerability or needs after they have been placed outside the city. 

“It is good news if they are going to take people who do have support needs back into the city, but I think we want to see the evidence of that and as Mark said there is a fundamental disagreement about the nature of their statutory duty.”

Ms Shaw said BHCC had also informed ESCC that it was in the process of moving more of its clients out of emergency accommodation in Eastbourne. She did, however, also note that there had been planning enforcement action from Eastbourne Borough Council at one of the hotels used for these placements.

Ms Shaw also confirmed that both she and ESCC leader Keith Glazier had met with their opposite numbers at BHCC to discuss their concerns.  A meeting is also set for legal representatives of both councils.

Cllr Glazier, also chairman of the health and wellbeing board, said: “The main thing that I got from the meeting was that in some ways they acknowledge a problem, but didn’t acknowledge the scale of the problem. 

“They started then talking about the legal meeting to understand what was going on. I just tried on behalf of all of us here to say, whatever the legal problem is, actually outsourcing people to die in somebody else’s area is not really something we can put up with.

“These are actually people living in conditions that are causing them to lose their life. I stressed that at great strength and hopefully we can come to a conclusion sooner rather than later.”

Since the previous meeting in July another resident of Kendal Court has died, while another made an attempt to take their own life. 

The intervening weeks have also seen a new independent report into the conditions of the accommodation. 

In August, Healthwatch East Sussex  — an independent advocacy organisation — conducted a review of the support needs of homeless people placed at Kendal Court. This follows on from an earlier review carried out by the organisation three years ago.

The most recent review, which involved interviews with residents, made a series of recommendations to BHCC. 

These included a recommendation that anyone placed at Kendal Court should have their health and care needs assessed by mental health and/or social care professionals at the time of their housing placement assessment. If this is not possible, then the assessment should be carried within a few days of placement, the review said.

The review also recommended that BHCC and mental health providers establish a system of mental health support in Newhaven, ideally including on-site support at Kendal Court.

Other recommendations included the need for a private meeting space on-site and to ensure any new arrivals are provided with essential items and information.

Even if its other recommendations were to be implemented, the Healthwatch review also recommended that people with multiple and complex needs should not be placed at Kendal Court at all. 

The review also notes that Healthwatch raised three safeguarding concerns during its two weeks in Kendal Court.

Healthwatch did note, however, that there had been improvements made to Kendal Court since its original review.